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Tomas Satoransky is ready to embrace his positional versatility like never before

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USA Today

Tomas Satoransky is ready to embrace his positional versatility like never before

As he enters the third season of his NBA career, two things stand out to Tomas Satoransky in his approach to this particular campaign that may differ from years past. 

One is that he has learned by now he is not entitled to or assured of anything when it comes to his role in the Wizards' rotation. The other is that he is ready to fully embrace playing positions other than point guard, a directive the coaches and front office have given him over the past year.

The first lesson was instilled the hard way, through having an inconsistent role the past two seasons. In 2017-18 alone, he went from being the third point guard, to the second point guard, to the replacement starter for John Wall, to watching the team sign multiple point guards as free agents before the playoffs; in which he was essentially replaced by Ty Lawson, who had last played in China.

All of that happened within one season, despite the fact that Satoransky had thrived at times in each spot, including as a starter.

The Wizards' point of view

The Wizards clearly wanted to see more from him last season and he took that to heart.

"That's what these two years have taught me, never be sure of your situation or position," Satoransky told NBC Sports Washington. "On the other hand, I feel very confident now. I also feel confident knowing how things go and how I can be patient when I'm not playing. I still have to work hard, which I do every time. But I feel confident knowing everything and there is a big difference coming into something where you have no idea what's going to happen."

The Wizards explained their decisions to bring in other point guards, a process which also included trading for Tim Frazier last summer and signing Ramon Sessons in March, as not an indication of Satoransky's shortcomings. Instead, they wanted him to develop at other positions and use his athletic 6-foot-7 frame in other ways.

Head coach Scott Brooks even mentioned this after Wednesday's training camp practice.

"Tomas, he is very versatile. He can play a lot of different positions on both ends of the court. We have to use that," Brooks said.

Satoransky's personal versatility

Satoransky has long insisted he is more natural at point guard, where he grew up playing and where he made a name for himself overseas before joining the NBA. The Wizards hoped he would occasionally play shooting guard and small forward, but despite improving his off-ball skills like spot-up three-point shooting, Satoransky never fully got a grasp at either position last season.

This year, Satoransky seems not only more prepared to play at those positions, but perhaps more willing. Not that he wasn't eager to play off the ball, it's that now he seems a bit more thrilled about it.

"With the depth and everything, I'm not trying to focus on one specific position. I'm trying to focus on how I can help other players trying to play good together. With the second group, we can be very, very versatile there. I'm looking forward to it," Satoransky said. 

"I like to play with Jeff [Green] already. I can see that. He's very smart and great at pick-and-rolls and slipping [off of them]. Austin [Rivers], I haven't practiced with him yet, but I know what he can bring to the team. I'm actually excited about that, playing with versatile teammates and being able to play different styles."

The good news

If Satoransky can find a way to succeed with Rivers in particular, that will be great for the Wizards and also Satoransky's future. As the star player turns 27 in October, he is entering a contract year and the biggest threat to his playing time at backup point guard is probably Rivers. If the Wizards decide to tighten their rotation and rely more heavily on Wall and Bradley Beal, Rivers could cut into Satoransky's role, as he can also play point.

The good news is that the Wizards do not have another primary backup point guard on the roster. At this point last year, they had both Satoransky and Frazier. Right now, Satoransky is slotted to be the No. 2 guy.

It's a good situation for him on paper, but Satoransky doesn't count anything as guaranteed.

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Wizards and Warriors have an eventful history for two teams that don't play each other often

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USA Today Sports

Wizards and Warriors have an eventful history for two teams that don't play each other often

For two teams that only play each other twice a season and have no regional ties, the Wizards and Warriors have an underrated history between them. There have been thrilling games, memorable moments and a good deal of bad blood between the players.

As far as game results, Golden State has held the upper hand. That sounds about right, given the Warriors have won three of the last four championships. Since John Wall entered the league, the Warriors are 13-2 against Washington.

Before the Wizards take on the Warriors in the Bay Area on Wednesday night (10 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington), take a look back at some of the most consequential games between the teams...

March 23, 2013 - Klay vs. John

A lot of people forget about this one. Back in March of 2013, long before the Warriors became a dynasty, Wall was ejected for a confrontation with Klay Thompson at Oracle Arena.

While they were each chasing a loose ball, Thompson shoved Wall to the ground with his shoulder and Wall took offense. Before the ball was inbounded for the next play, Wall went up to Thompson and confronted him with a healthy amount of trash-talk.

The refs saw it and sent Wall to the showers. The Wizards ended up losing the game.

Feb. 28, 2017 - Durant gets hurt in his return to D.C.

Kevin Durant made the surprising decision to join the Warriors in the summer of 2016 and few fanbases were more shocked than those of the Wizards, who had long seen their franchise as a logical landing spot for the hometown star. Durant didn't make his return to Washington with his new team until February of that season, and his homecoming didn't last long.

Just 1:33 into his night, Durant suffered a knee injury when teammate Zaza Pachulia fell into him in a game against the Wizards. The injury initially appeared to be very serious, though Durant was able to return just over a month later.

One of the worst parts about it all was that Pachulia clearly flopped unnecessarily on the play. Another reason to hate flopping.

April 2, 2017 - Jennings vs. JaVale

Neither of these guys are still on the teams at play, but this was a good one. Late in the 2016-17 season, the Wizards were getting blown out by the Warriors when center JaVale McGee decided to shoot a three from the corner.

Wizards guard Brandon Jennings thought that crossed the line of good sportsmanship. Golden State was up big and there is an unwritten rule in basketball not to run up the score at the very end.

So, Jennings pushed McGee to the ground and afterwards both had a series of entertaining quotes about the matter. A league-wide debate about unwritten rules also broke out in the ensuing days.

Among the things said in the aftermath, Jennings pointed out how he could have done more.

"Thank God he didn't go to the rack," Jennings said. "It probably would have been worse for him... I'm old school. Like I said, he better be glad he shot that three and didn't go to the rack."

Oct. 27, 2018 - Draymond vs. Brad

Wizards fans should remember this well because it was the most recent spat between the teams. On Oct. 27 of last year, Bradley Beal and Draymond Green were both ejected for a fight at Oracle. It started after a missed shot with the Wizards on offense as both players were jockeying for position to grab the rebound.

They got tangled and ended up falling out of bounds into the stands in a tussle. Many players joined in on the fun.

Amazingly, neither Beal or Green were suspended. Others weren't as lucky, including Markieff Morris and Carrick Felix who stepped onto the court when they were supposed to remain on the bench. 

None of this is to suggest the Wizards and Warriors will be at each other's throats on Wednesday night, but history suggests it should be an entertaining game.

 

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Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. show how they can change everything for Wizards in win over Blazers

Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. show how they can change everything for Wizards in win over Blazers

Most nights, with little variance, the Wizards know what they are going to get from John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. They are consistently what they are, both good and bad, and mostly good.

The same cannot always be said about Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. Both are capable of brilliance, it's just those moments come and go and sometimes with mysterious timing. Both players help the team more often than not, but can be unpredictable and enigmatic.

Monday night saw both Morris and Oubre at their best as the Wizards topped the Blazers 125-124 in overtime at the Moda Center. It was a worthy reminder of how much the two of them can change the outlook for the Wizards as a team on any given night.

Let's begin with Morris because this may have been the best game he's played with the Wizards since joining them in a Feb. 2016 trade. On both ends of the floor, he  was a force, but particularly on offense.

Morris erupted for 28 points in 25 minutes on 9-for-15 from the field and 6-for-10 from three. His six threes were a career-high. He also had 10 rebounds, a block and a steal.

It was the most efficient night in Morris' career and, by one measure, one of the most efficient in franchise history. His 28 points were the most by a Wizards or Bullets player in 25 minutes or less since A.J. English dropped 30 points in 23 minutes in 1990.

Morris' threes were well-timed. He hit two in the extra period, including one with 38.5 seconds remaining to put the Wizards up four. He also made one with 1:04 left in regulation and another right before that with 1:39 to go, both to give the Wizards a lead at the time. 

The clutch threes invoked memories of a game-winner Morris hit in the very same building two seasons ago. That also happened to be his best year with the Wizards.

Morris has improved his three-point shooting in recent years with a career-best 36.7 percent last season. When he's knocking them down, the Wizards can be uniquely good at spacing the floor, as Wall and especially Beal and Porter can be dangerous from three.

What Morris did against Portland was a major departure from a pair of uninspired games to begin the season. He had 21 points and 12 rebounds total in his first two games, both losses, as he failed to compensate for Dwight Howard's absence. On Monday, he stepped up and helped lead the Wizards to victory.

Like Morris, Oubre had been scuffling through two games. A different version of him showed up in Portland.

Oubre amassed only 17 points in his first two games and shot just 5-for-16 from the field and 1-for-7 from three. Against the Blazers, Oubre scored 22 points and shot 9-for-13 overall and 3-for-3 from long range.

Oubre added six rebounds, a block and a steal and a host of winning plays that didn't show up in traditional stats. He drew a loose ball foul on Mo Harkless early in the fourth quarter and took a charge on C.J. McCollum with under two minutes in overtime.

Oubre played pretty much exactly how head coach Scott Brooks often says he should. He ran the floor in transition and attacked the rim when the ball swung his way. He was more selective with his three-point attempts than usual. He wreaked havoc on defense with deflections, didn't gamble for steals and he hustled for rebounds. 

Monday night showed the perfect version of both Morris and Oubre. The Wizards need that to be the model for how they aspire to play every single night. If they do, this team's ceiling is significantly higher.

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